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In Search of the new in Cape Town

In most cases, skateboarding means hitting the streets and rolling away – no matter where you are. However, it actually makes a difference whether you’re in your hometown or out on vacation or on a tour in a foreign city for a couple of days, especially when it comes to getting photos. That’s why we sent Cape Town local photographer Sam Clark together with British visitor Charlie Munro, and afterwards, Berlin-based Dennis Scholz, who was on vacation in South Africa, together with the local Yann Horowitz (you may know him from the recent Chakalaka video) to the same spots to see what kind of different perspectives would emerge. What new ways did the locals find, what unexpected tricks did the visitors pull off? What view of a city does an outsider have and which angles do only the insider know?

Yann Horrowitz Fs180 Sw Manual Scholz

Yann Horowitz - Frontside 180 Switch Manual | Foto: Dennis Scholz

What does a city need for you to make it interesting?

Dennis Scholz: I try to get an unbiased idea when I’m going to new cities. You never really know what you’re gonna find. You can go to Barcelona and you know that the spots are gonna be perfect, but going to random cities that no one has ever been to is kinda the goal.

How do you decide where to travel?

Dennis: If the weather is bad, there’s no need to go. There’s reason enough to go if the city itself is super interesting. In general, the look and feel of a city are important to me. I like cities that are super urban, super big. I like the New York vibe, but I also like smaller cities, like Tel Aviv, that are special in a way because nobody really knows about them.

"You can just be walking down the road and the next thing they’re skating is a fucking 20-stair or something."

How do you guys discover cities? Are you doing any research, do you connect with people, or do you just stroll around?

Sam Clark: Usually, there’s someone that I know and link up with, but you could be anywhere and find something. I guess it’s the architecture that draws me to places and the randomness of it all.

And for you, Dennis?

Dennis: Of course, it’s super good to have a local person to talk to, to WhatsApp a photo quickly, to ask for a spot or something. Research definitely makes sense. It’s always good to have that solid base of spots or places, but the most interesting thing is arriving and randomly seeing what’s happening. The most interesting photos I shot were always at spots no one told me about. On the way to a spot, you’d see something and everybody was instantly hyped. That’s the vibe. Spot guides often don’t have the same understanding of what you find interesting. Multiple times, I have experienced that people expect you to be on a mission and they only take you to handrails and twelve-stairs. I always try to explain that the weird shit could also be the best stuff.

Charles Munro Switch Olliw Cape Town Photo Sam Clark

Charles Munro - Switch Ollie | Foto: Sam Clark

Sam, you were traveling to Europe a lot last summer and most of it was just for fun and not for a mission.

Sam: Last year’s mission was super loose. No real plans, but you’re there and you’ll obviously try to make a living. You need to be ready and available to shoot. So you gotta have at least some form of gear on you. It’s a weird position that you’re in when you’re traveling because you’re with dudes that are potentially doing the craziest shit out of the blue. You can just be walking down the road and the next thing they’re skating is a fucking 20-stair or something. Obviously, I’m just playing it loose and don’t really have a solid plan. That’s always a lot more fun and more rewarding when you get something that way rather than fighting at a handrail and someone is trying to kick you out.

What about you, Dennis? You were on vacation in Cape Town.

Dennis: I was on vacation for three weeks with my girlfriend, but then I added another week by myself because I knew people from my last trips to Cape Town. You’ll definitely experience the place differently if you’re on your own. That was the time our mission kind of grew. Even that was nothing that was planned before. I didn’t even bring flashes. I actually borrowed them for one photo, but I also tried to travel light and wanted to be free and keep the holiday vibe. It’s way more rewarding when you’re just out there, having a good time, and something happens. If you’re in Athens, Barcelona, London – those major cities mean being in the van a lot, shooting one photo after another, and coming home not even remembering how many photos you got.

It’s definitely a different way to experience the city if you’re traveling with just your camera compared to a backpack full of flashes.

Dennis: I feel like the vibe on tour is sometimes a little bit forced and you don’t have that when you’re hanging around with locals living their everyday life. They don’t have to be on the street, they don’t have to skate if they don’t want to. When you’re in the van with a filmer, a photographer, and your team manager, you better jump on that rail. That’s a big difference I think.

Yann Horrowitz Fscrooks To Fakie Scholz

Yann Horrowitz - Frontside to Fakie | Foto: Dennis Scholz

What makes Cape Town special to you guys?

Dennis: For me, it definitely is the combination of the ocean, the mountains or nature in general, and the city. Having these three aspects covered in one place is fucking epic.

Sam:That’s pretty much the reason I live here. I’ve been to quite a few cities in Europe, America or wherever, and I’m yet to find somewhere where I’d permanently base myself. Like, the weather is sick. The mountains, the ocean, rivers – everything is so fucking close. Just one thing, I’ve been shooting here for the past ten years and it becomes pretty tricky. If you are that spot guide and take people to places… If it’s a popular tourist destination, you do kinda run out of spots.

" long as you’re not causing any malicious damage, you can pretty much get away with everything."

Dennis: I always try to talk to the locals to see what’s up. I think it’s the worst thing to skate a certain spot even if you know that you shouldn’t because it’s a bust or you would fuck up an agreement. I think it’s important to always remember that there are guys who try to skate the spots every single day and you should adapt to their behavior and respect their agreements. Ignorance can cause some trouble for the locals even after you’re long gone.

Sam: For Cape Town, as long as you’re not causing any malicious damage, you can pretty much get away with everything. You might get some fucking rich person from Sea Point to give you shit, but if you’re not actually damaging anything too much, just carry on with what you’re doing.

Unless you’re getting in a wild car chase with blood [which might have happened to Sam…], it’s good.

Dennis: I think it’s more the case with spots you have agreements on, for example, with Baustelle, Kulturforum in Berlin. People know that you don’t skate there before 6 p.m. and you better respect that because otherwise there’s a big danger that the whole scene is in trouble or the whole spot is in danger. We kind of had that with the benches at Warschauer Street.

Charles Munro Nosegrind Cape Town Photo Sam Clark

Charles Munro - Nose Grind | Foto: Sam Clark

What about ABD lists? Are you more likely to ignore them when you’re on tour, true to the motto, “It was just some random local who did it"?

Sam: I personally try my best to respect the ABD scenario. Sometimes, though, you obviously have no idea what has happened at a spot. If you don’t have a guide with you, how would you ever know? I try my best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve had ABD tricks published.

Dennis: I feel like as times and skateboard media in general are changing, ABDs are not too relevant anymore. It’s not about documenting the hardest move at a well-known spot anymore; rather, the artistic aspect is more meaningful nowadays. You can get a cover with a powerslide or get a kickflip photo at a spot where someone already had a 360 flip printed – more about style, less about sequences of tech tricks. Also, the relation of photo and video is very different today. Some years ago, the photo was the teaser and everybody waited to see the clip, that’s not always the case today. In the flood of data, sometimes videos of tricks land on Instagram before the photo is even edited.

Cities are different in many ways. Are you in different modes when you’re in different cities? For example, ignoring security guards because you know that they won’t do shit?

Dennis: I definitely think so, but this has to do something with respect and actually informing yourself about what the situation is in whatever your destination might be. Police in general are gonna be a lot different in America compared to Germany or Barcelona. That definitely influences my way of shooting or my way of tolerance. For example, New York: when people came and kicked us out, we just left because we heard a lot of horror stories, whereas in Germany they are not really allowed to take you anywhere and that makes a big difference.

Img 0712 Photo Sam Clark

Charlie Munro - Backside Nosegrind Revert | Foto: Sam Clark

Do skaters who are visiting give you a new perspective of the city?

Sam: Charlie was here on holiday with a couple of other dudes. They were just up to pretty much having a good time and then we linked up. We shot the three photos in three days. The nosegrind was literally thirty seconds from the house he was staying at. The nosegrind and the switch ollie were pretty much half an hour after each other. We kind of made a point that day and looked at some spots to try to dust off some of the partying, and it worked out.

Dennis: That was the one thing that was really interesting for me, seeing Yann skate the spots that he obviously knows. The gap to 50-50 he does on the train tracks, that was actually a spot where he was like, “I know that one and I know that I could do a front blunt on the out ledge, but it would be super hard and I’m kind of shitting my pants.” The pressure gave him some other ideas. He was able to use that pressure and transform it into creative energy and jump on these weird train tracks. We were on a mission and just because the spot was set and we had the goal in mind, we didn’t have many options to choose from other than looking for a way to skate the spot in a different way. It was really interesting for me to see how Yann was trying to spice things up a little bit.

You have to get creative when you skate your hometown spots a lot.

Dennis: That’s also why everyone is flipping up crates and trying to build natural kickers from stuff or bumping up shit. That’s kind of a movement because most of the people get tired from skating the same spots all the time. I guess they are searching for something new.

Yann Horrowitz Gap 5050 Scholz

Yann Horrowitz - Gap to 50-50 | Foto: Dennis Scholz